By Jenn Mampara, Director of Education

Evaluation of the FRESHFARM FoodPrints program suggests it is an important change agent, helping to positively frame children’s relationship to food, shape schools’ capacity for nutrition education, and support the broader academic mission of DCPS in its integration of subject standards into its food and garden curriculum. 

This is a core finding of a recent evaluation of FRESHFARM FoodPrints conducted by George Mason University Center for Social Science Research. Dr. Amy Best and undergraduate students Alexis Lehr and Kayla Peterson observed FoodPrints programming at two schools through the 2015-16 school year to evaluate the implementation and outcomes of the program.

> Read the FRESHFARM Highlights of the GMU FoodPrints study
> Read the Executive Summary of the GMU researchers’ study of the FoodPrints program

Evidence from this evaluation suggests that FoodPrints is a feasible and sustainable program model for contemporary nutrition education and is able to successfully integrate subject standards into its curriculum.

Key findings of the GMU research include:
  • FoodPrints’ educators encouraged students to work collaboratively and engaged students by involving them in every step of the process. Classes offered child-centered, active learning opportunities. 
  • Lessons were focused on real world application of core subject matter concepts in math, science and language arts. Students practiced making predictions, evaluated the real world evidence before them, and were encouraged to draw conclusions based on evidence.
  • Lessons promoted a critical consumer literacy as a health strategy. Students learned strategies to be more scrutinizing consumers of the food. Lessons focused on how to read consumer labels for nutritional facts and how to identify deceptive advertising.
  • Observations suggested a deep level of student interest in trying new foods that promote body health. Appreciation of the foods prepared and tried was readily expressed openly by the vast majority of students and is perhaps the most persuasive piece of evidence in support of program impact. 
  • Given the curricular scaffolding of the FoodPrints program, which builds each year with reinforcement and content reviews, the greatest impact is likely to be realized longitudinally.
  • FoodPrints has impact beyond school. Findings from parent surveys suggests FoodPrints has had a positive impact on children’s knowledge of healthy foods and their willingness to eat healthy food at home; Interest in cooking nutritious food at home; and nutrition and cooking knowledge.

“Smells so good, so fresh,” offers a boy as the girl beside him pulls arugula from the stem.

- Watkins Elementary, May 26, 2016

“I love snap peas. They’re my favorite,” offers a kindergartener… “Look, peas!” screeches another boy. This is followed by an exuberant “purple carrots!” from a small girl sitting beside him.

- Francis Stevens, May 9, 2016

“Circling the answers didn’t seem to do justice for what a great program you all run. With a 3rd and 1st grade at Watkins and a pre-K -4 student at Peabody, we have had a lot of exposure to FoodPrints over the year. What has interested me is the longitudinal impact of the program. The curriculum builds on itself with each grade and the level of knowledge grows as well. I especially see that with my third grader. The language and respect you all have introduced around food has become an important and essential tool in our household. Nutrition and food choice is extremely important to us, and FoodPrints reinforces that approach in the school setting. It is common to hear ‘Don’t yuck my yums’ or for one of our kids to give a thumbs up/down/middle for a particular meal.”

- Parent survey response, which recognizes the cumulative impact of the FoodPrints program

Washington’s Green Grocer -- a local food delivery service that sources local and seasonal products -- is generously partnering with FRESHFARM FoodPrints this school year. This partnership allows us to use ingredients grown by local farmers in every recipe students prepare.

Washington’s Green Grocer is a natural partner for FRESHFARM; we work with some of the same farmers and both strive to strengthen the local food system. WGG sources from over 100 Mid-Atlantic local growers and is committed to being DC's best farm-to-doorstep grocery delivery service.
Each week, our FoodPrints teachers compile a list of market ingredients needed for recipes they will prepare with students the coming week. Then, every Sunday morning, our lead shopper, Danielle Tutrone, purchases hundreds of dollars of ingredients at the Sunday Dupont FRESHFARM Market. She sorts everything into insulated coolers labeled with each school’s name and address. 
Washington’s Green Grocer comes by the Dupont Market each week to pick up cooler bags brimming with produce. They store the food overnight and deliver the bags to each of our eight partner schools on Monday morning.

Washington’s Green Grocer shares our commitment to providing healthy, local foods to the community. Their storage and delivery allows FoodPrints to cook more nutritious recipes with our students and to provides additional financial support to our local farmers. 

Thank you Washington’s Green Grocer!
By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Karin Harrison, who in addition to being a fabulous special education teacher runs an after school club that attracts some of the most thoughtful and dynamic students at The School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens. Together, elementary and middle schoolers in the self-named Student Sustainability Corps have written (and won!) grants, presented at local conferences, built a retaining wall with community volunteers to ameliorate soil erosion in the front of the school, conducted bin surveys around the school and posted signs to improve recycling efforts throughout the building, and regularly helped me maintain the school's organic vegetable garden. How lucky am I to be a part of this school community and work with these smiling, conscientious young people?

Our connection is an also example of how our FoodPrints school garden extends to support after school and STEM-focused programming outside of FoodPrints classes.
The group also was responsible for constructing and installing a homemade chicken run for the laying hens that were housed at the school for a month this fall. The birds were pretty awesome, inspiring community goodwill and teaching urban kiddos about animal care, while also laying an egg a day and providing learning experiences for our FoodPrints classes.

Their efforts to improve our school community inspire me each day. Each Wednesday when I work with them, I wonder: how will they make me think, and make me smile, today? These students will no doubt go on to become leaders in their communities, to the benefit of us all.
Student Sustainability Corps members mulching and pruning kale in the Francis Stevens school garden
An important component of FoodPrints programming are the parent volunteers who help students garden and cook, and learn alongside students. But when parents aren’t able to attend, or when FoodPrints teachers need extra assistance, we’ve been fortunate to have community members volunteer to keep our gardens thriving and classrooms running smoothly. 

Below we share a few stories of our much appreciated community volunteers.

Elaine Swiedler, FoodPrints garden volunteer at School Without Walls at Francis Stevens

Elaine Swiedler volunteered each weekend over the summer and during the warm fall weekends of 2016 to keep the garden at Francis Stevens watered, weeded, and tended while students and FoodPrints staff were not in school. Volunteers like her are so valuable for us to be able to keep our FoodPrints school gardens vibrant and growing year round!

Last summer and this fall, I was a caretaker of the vegetable garden at Francis Stevens, keeping things growing when the students couldn’t be there to do it themselves. It was rewarding to see the progress of the plants from week to week, to build new raised beds, and to know that I was helping, albeit indirectly, kids learn about cooking, gardening, and personal and environmental health!
Elaine Swiedler, second from right, helped maintain the garden at Francis Stevens when students were away
The most rewarding part of this experience was interacting with members of the community who stopped to chat during my watering shifts at the garden.

Once, an elderly man who stopped to admire the garden said it was the highlight of his walk each day. Other days, passersby stopped to ask what a certain plant was or to share stories about their gardens or compare what they were growing with what was in front of the school. Even workers from a construction crew across the street stopped to chat. One wanted to know if we were growing mustard greens; another wanted to know if I had any tips for combatting the powdery mildew that was killing the pumpkin plant in his front yard. (Alas, I was unable to help much since he'd already heard about the only remedy that I knew of, which is spraying leaves with a diluted milk solution.)

Many people walked by without saying anything, but for those who did stop, it was only been positive. Caring for the garden and talking to people as they pass by made me feel more connected to my community, and reminded me that there are all types of gardeners and garden appreciators. We're not only educating the kids but learning from each other.

Jean Whaley, FoodPrints volunteer at School Within School

Jean Whaley is a regular volunteer with Toigo Farms at FRESHFARM Markets in Dupont Circle. She’s up early most Sundays to help the farmers put out and sell their produce. She can also be found at the Penn Quarter Market on Thursday afternoons, especially during peach season!

This fall, Jean also began volunteering regularly in the FoodPrints program SWS, where students spend a half-day in their FoodPrints sessions. In addition to gardening and academic content through lessons, writing and drawing, students prepare several recipes and eat lunch together. On a January day with the first graders at SWS, Jean helped prep the ingredients for Bean & Vegetable Chili and Wheat Berry Salad. She worked with the students to make the chili and stir it as it cooked on the stove.
Jean is dedicated to volunteering. She worked as the head of Americorps VISTA managing the national volunteer service program. Two of the other volunteers in the recent first grade FoodPrints class were VISTA volunteers in their younger years, which was an interesting connection to make with Jean over cooking and gardening!
One of the keys to eating nutritious, fresh recipes is being aware of what produce grows best in which season.

When many of us can get produce from all over the world at any time of year -- and others have limited exposure to fresh produce -- it often takes a school garden, hands-on experiences with planting and harvesting, and experiences with preparing and eating in-season foods for children to understand and appreciate seasonal produce.

Knowledge and appreciation for seasonality is a core outcome of FoodPrints, underlined by the DC Environmental Literacy Framework, Common Core Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards -- all which expect students to recognize patterns, such as the cycle of the seasons.

Patterns is one of the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: "Patterns exist everywhere - in regularly occurring shapes or structures and in repeating events and relationships. For example, patterns are discernible in the symmetry of flowers and snowflakes, the cycling of the seasons, and the repeated base pairs of DNA."

In FoodPrints classes, students are introduced to seasonally appropriate foods each month. They grow these same foods in their school gardens, and use them in investigations and lessons aligned to the curriculum and standards.

For example, in October, students may study, cook, and eat broccoli and sweet potatoes. In May, they harvest radishes and carrots. The experience of seeing produce grow in their gardens reinforces seasonality: they understand why fragile strawberries and tomatoes don’t grow in the winter but hardier plants like kale and collards are able to survive the cold. 

Students in younger grades understand how plants change over time, how the garden changes over time and why. FoodPrints teachers encourage students to observe and describe -- both by drawing and writing -- what plants and animals need to survive.

As part of this lesson, 1st graders at School Within School drew their favorite fruit or vegetable in each season:
Older students create seasonality charts using pictures and planting/harvesting information from seed catalogs. They divide a poster board up into four sections, one for each season, and then fill them with food that is harvested in each season. They draw from their harvesting experiences in their school gardens to help guide their thinking. This project always generates important discussion about why strawberries can’t grow in our school gardens in Washington, DC in the winter, but there are plenty of strawberries in our grocery stores year round.
This fall, third graders at Tyler Elementary determined which ingredients in the recipes they were preparing were in season locally. They discussed FoodPrints class talked about the importance of buying local. Students said:
  • “We support local farmers when we shop at farmers markets." 
  • "Buying local cuts back on cost/fuel from trucks driving across the country.” 
  • "There’s less chemicals and pesticides used if the produce doesn't have to travel as far."
  • "Produce tastes fresher!"

Using our Noodles


By Ibti Vincent, FoodPrints Lead Teacher

“Who here has made pasta from scratch?” the chef asked. About five hands shot into the air.

“Okay. Wow. That’s pretty good. But, now, I don’t mean that you took spaghetti noodles out of the box and boiled it. How many have made pasta out of flour and eggs?” One hand stayed raised.

Chef Ethan McKee was getting a sense of his students. He could see right off that they were good listeners and excited participants, but I bet he had no idea how awesome they would be at making pasta.

Last week, 30 fifth graders from the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens Elementary took a walking field trip a few blocks away to Urbana, a popular Dupont Circle restaurant specializing in Italian food. It was a real treat.

You see, normally, FoodPrints sessions are presented to our various schools as “in-school” field trips. Sure, the teachers are pretty accomplished cooks and instructors, but this time, class was taught by a professional chef, in a beautiful restaurant located in the Hotel Palomar -- it was the result of a wonderful collaboration between Urbana, FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints program, and a DC public elementary school.

Before walking the four blocks to Urbana, the students harvested spinach (grown from seed!) along with kale, oregano, thyme, and chives in their school garden.

The students -- along with their classroom teacher, FoodPrints interns, and a few parent volunteers -- were greeted at Urbana by Executive Chef McKee with enthusiasm and aprons. There would be a lot of flour involved in today’s hands-on lesson, so the aprons were a welcome addition to our usual FoodPrints setup.
After washing our hands well -- that certainly didn’t change from our normal FoodPrints procedure -- we got to work at the five workstations Urbana’s team had set up. Before their eyes, students transformed a volcano of flour and eggs into smooth pasta dough.
We worked in teams to roll out the dough, passing it again and again through a pasta roller. I think our longest piece was over 12 feet long!
Some became fettuccine noodles, while other sheets were set aside for ravioli.

As we finished rolling out our pasta sheets, the amicable sous chef used sauteed our homegrown greens with shallots and garlic, which we stirred with some fresh ricotta to make the ravioli filling. Then Chef Ethan showed us the delicate process of filling, folding, and cutting our pillowy packets. You want to see a ten-year-old focus? Hand him a tube of ravioli filling and a sheet of fresh pasta!

As our noodles boiled -- fresh pasta takes just moments to cook to perfection -- we got cleaned up. Class ended with a feast. Chef Ethan and his team brought out pizzas, followed by bowls of our homemade pastas: spinach and kale ravioli in tomato sauce and fettuccine tossed in herb butter. (“Pizza, too?!” I think the 5th grade boys almost fainted from excitement. There were NO leftovers.)

Many thanks to the team at Urbana for making this most fun field trip possible. We hope to continue this fun and delicious partnership!

The SWS second graders kicked off Earth Day celebrations in great style with a bike ride to Lincoln park and a trash-free picnic! 

The Lincoln park excursion -- the culminating bike trip as part of the DCPS Cornerstone program that aims to teach all second graders to ride a bike – was a perfect opportunity to collaborate with their  monthly FoodPrints session. We used the preparation for the picnic – and the picnic itself – as a way to teach students about reducing trash, how to prepare and store items with reused containers and less packaging, and what “trash-free” could look like.
During the time I was planning this outing, the cherry blossoms were just blooming in Stanton park and I was astonished at the amount of trash left in the park by people who came to picnic and enjoy the trees.  I want our children to understand that going on a picnic doesn’t have to mean take-out foods with lots of plastic bags and throw-away containers.  With a little time and planning, we can make a trash free picnic with many of the recyclable containers we all have in our cabinets at home.  

Some of the recipes used for our lunch are from the children’s cooking magazine and website ChopChop (Lemony Hummus, a recipe by Cris Comerford, White House Executive Chef), and others were created by turning our yummy salad recipes (including ABC Salad) into sandwich filling to make them easier to eat. Ms. Scofield’s class had fun making the fillings, and Mr. Leavitt’s class was in charge of making the sandwiches and packing it all up for the ride.

To take our trash free picnic one step further, the students helped me recycle an old tablecloth into cloth napkins that we used for the picnic. They decorated the napkins with their ideas of how to help the earth and the importance of living “green.”  These ideas can feel overwhelming at times, but if we all just start with something like beginning to use less plastic bags and re-use our, we can truly make a difference in the world we leave our children and their grandchildren. We will wash the tablecloths and napkins and use them in the SWS FoodPrints kitchen for future lessons.
The accompanying bike trip was also a success! It was a feat for some students that were just barely able to ride or hadn’t ridden at all before the unit started. DCPS loaned SWS some bikes for students who didn’t have them, but most second graders brought their bikes every Thursday for a few months and received instruction from Mr. Chapman, the SWS physical education teacher, on riding technique and safety.

Many parents came along to ride and help. John Cochran, dad to Liam, had a great time: “It was a fun trip, with lots of grownups on hand to help the kids and a delicious lunch prepared by the kids in FoodPrints.”
Peabody’s  Health and Wellness committee has been working on encouraging healthy choices in the lunches children bring to school. On the February Parent Conference day they set up a Nutrition Information Station in the first floor lobby where parents could see and sample healthy, nutritious foods to include in their children’s lunch boxes. 
Included was a "yogurt bar" with apples and maple syrup from FRESHFARM Markets and homemade carrot muffins made from a FoodPrints recipe.  Also featured were  "Wrap it! Pocket It! Make a Face! or Sandwich It!" station, a Snack Station and a Noodle bar. 
Chef Myron and Chef Royal demonstrated how to build nutritious lunch wraps and wedges using a variety of food. 
Bento Lunch  boxes, grocery gift cards and shopping bags were raffled off during the day. 
Some messages about assembling lunches were:
- Buy as many one ingredient foods as possible.
- Concentrate on foods from plants first and foods from animals second.
- Include whole grains.  Avoid processed grains.
- Buy local when you can.  Buy organic when it really matters 

Kudos to Sue Bloom, Chair of the Peabody Wellness Committee, all the other committee members for organizing an informative and delicious display of lunch and snack ideas and to the wonderful Peabody Teaching assistants for staffing the station throughout the day.

-written by Sarah Burke


FoodPrints at Home


The following is a guest post from a parent at Tyler Elementary, who kindly agreed to allow us to repost her message from the school listserv.
Huge Shout Out To Ms. Vincent and her FoodPrints crew!

I got the recipe for Sweet Potato Quesadillas from my very excited 1st grader who wanted to make them at home.  We made them tonight and had a very happy family!  Quick, fresh, easy, and eaten!  Thank you for educating my kids on what they are eating, where their food comes from, and the life skill of cooking!  Always exciting to add another recipe to the weekly dinner mix.

Many thanks!
Liz Young Weeden
Mom to Alex (4th) and Avis (1st)


Winter Vegetables


Early childhood science standards include a focus on studying seasons and weather patterns through observations, and by collecting data to search for patterns. In FoodPrints, students study fruits and vegetables available in the garden and from local farms through the seasons. Together, these experiences help our youngest learners synthesize these sets of knowledge to more deeply understand the impact of seasonal changes on the natural world around them.
Observing different types of winter produce.
At Peabody, the first FoodPrints session following the winter holiday was a focus on winter vegetables. After visiting their school garden for observations, students looked at the Growing Healthy Schools  - Choose What’s in Season chart provided to us by OSSE’s Healthy Schools Act Initiatives.  It provides a visible illustration of the locally grown, seasonal fruit and vegetables available in the Washington area and has been used in the Peabody FoodPrints classroom throughout the year to support students’ learning.  
Questions we considered:
What do you notice about the different seasons? 
How did the school garden change during each of these seasons?
What do you notice about vegetables available in winter versus summer? 
Why aren’t they all available in every season? Why do different plants grow in different seasons? How can you explain the differences? 

Children noticed that the leafy greens that were left in their school garden, unprotected from the cold temperatures, were wilted and frozen. They also noticed that the green leafy vegetables were in the spring section of the chart but not in the winter section.  

What happens to greens in the winter?

As small groups of children compared the collection of winter vegetables in the FoodPrints classroom and weighed them on the kitchen scale, the conversation focused on not only the weight of each vegetable, but the differences in the coverings of the root vegetables and the thick skinned winter squash. 

Weighing and measuring our winter bounty.
Apples + Beets + Carrots = ABC Salad
Mashing potatoes and squash.
As the children prepared ABC Salad and Butternut Squash-Potato Mash,  they noticed the beautiful colors that winter vegetables have and learned about the health benefits of eating red and orange vegetables. We also read a wonderful book called This Year's Garden that follows the evolution of a garden throughout the course of the seasons.